Augmented reality (AR) — think the Pokemon Go game — may have many benefits for older adults living at home. But designers, for the most part, are not developing the software with this age group in mind. That is according to scientists at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom and the Bath-based charity Designability. 

In a study, the researchers found that adults ages 50 and older are more likely to be able to execute AR-prompted tasks displayed on a laptop when a “ghosthand,” as opposed to an arrow, demonstrated the actions. Examples of AR-prompted tasks from the study were: pick up a shape and then move the shape. Participants preferred the ghosthand over other AR prompts, and were faster and more accurate at finishing the tasks. They noted that they related to the hand and it was clearer than other prompts. 

Researchers believe that many makers of AR software do not factor the needs and preferences of older adults into their designs.

“AR technology has great potential for improving the lives of older adults but most AR designers give little or no thought to the kind of augmentations they use for this population,” said Thomas Williams, a Doctor of Engineering study who conducted the research, according to EurekaAlert! 

AR technology shows potential for helping people with dementia and other memory difficulties. With steps displayed clearly on a screen or AR glasses, the technology could help people prepare food, wash their hands or make a cup of tea.